Second of two parts
The organizational infrastructure is in place. So is the talent. As the next wave of prospects prepares to hit Broadway, director of player development Jed Ortmeyer provided The Post with a progress report on the cream of the Rangers crop.
The Blueshirts are expected to be in the market for a physical, right defenseman as the scheduled March 21 trade deadline approaches, but before attempting to deal for someone like say, Anaheims Josh Manson, would the team give an opportunity to Braden Schneider, who is in his first season of pro hockey and will not turn 21 until September?
Thats a question way above my pay grade in terms of what the timeline is and what moves are made and who is making those calls, Ortmeyer said of the 19th-overall selection of the 2020 draft for whom the Rangers traded up to select. But as an organization we believe that the best players are going to play, and if somebody is ready to go and we believe he can help us win games, then I am assuming he would be the next man up.
I couldnt put a timeline on it because I dont have that information and Im not taking over [general manager] Chris Drurys job, but in terms of putting the best team on the ice, if the time comes for someone in Hartford to get a look and that helps us win games, I think management would do the best for the organization.
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Matthew Robertson, the 49th-overall selection out of the 2018 second round, is also 20. The 6-foot-4, 201-pounder, also in his first season of pro hockey, has been paired much of the time with the 6-2, 210-pound Schneider.
Consistency is the biggest thing you want to see from young prospects, being able to come to the rink every day and take care of your on-ice and off-ice responsibilities while seeing the big picture, Ortmeyer said. [Robertson] is big, he skates well, he handles the puck pretty well.
Hes worked hard at his offensive game of moving across the blue line, getting pucks through and being effective that way. For his size and the way he can skate, hes not one-dimensional. He could fill whatever role would be needed in your lineup, could be a Swiss Army knife to move up and down.
Zac Jones, 21, of course, played 10 games for the Rangers at the end of last season after leaving UMass. He had an outstanding NHL camp, but the slick, 5-10, 172-pound lefty will likely have to force his way onto the varsity that already includes smaller types in Adam Fox and Nils Lundkvist.
I think theres a little disappointment [that he is not in New York] but if there isnt disappointment, then weve got the wrong guy, right? Ortmeyer asked rhetorically. To Zacs credit, his attitude never changed. He comes to the rink, hes got a smile on his face, he wants to work hard, hes good in practice and he has been playing very well in Hartford.
He wants to play 25 minutes and in all situations, and I know he would want to be in New York. But Zac also sees the value of getting those minutes and working on his game so hes ready when the time comes. He has understood that. It shows in his attitude and in his play.
There are certain things you cant get away with in pro hockey that you could in college hockey when it comes to things like boxing out, Ortmeyer said. As a smaller guy, you have to learn how to do that away from the net as opposed to at the net. There are tricks you learn playing against bigger bodies, more mature, hungry pro hockey players. Thats the value of Zac spending this time in Hartford.
Hes gifted offensively and makes plays you cant really teach. He scored a power-play goal the other night going coast-to-coast to tie the game. That was just a special play that shows how talented Zac is. If we can enhance all those other aspects, his offensive game becomes even more valuable.
When this years No. 1, Brennan Othmann, was returned to Flint after a strong first Rangers training camp, the winger vowed to dominate his league. And that is what he has done, tied for third in the OHL with 20 goals and tied for 10th with 37 points in 24 games as an 18-year-old even as he was snubbed for a spot on Canadas World Junior team.
His mindset is in the right place. Hes using this as motivation to get better, said Ortmeyer, who visited with Othmann last week. Hes putting up points, has a great shot and has a knack for finding the back of the net. But the thing I really like that translates and you cant teach, is his compete.
Hes willing to block shots, he finishes his checks, he wants the puck on his stick all the time, to almost a fault. Hes very passionate about winning and achieving success. You cant teach that. Whether you call that swagger or determination, if you add that to his natural scoring ability, theres something really special there.
Its going to take time for him to physically mature and add some strength to his [6-0, 180] frame but once that catches up to his hockey ability, the sky is the limit.
Will Cuylle, selected 60th overall in 2020 with the pick obtained from LA for Lias Andersson, will represent Canada in the World Juniors after recording 18 goals in 22 games for Windsor. The 6-4, 210-pound winger picked right up where he left off following an outstanding Rangers camp after having the benefit of playing for the Wolf Pack last year under unique COVID protocols.
We wanted him to go back, be a man amongst boys and dominate physically and have success offensively, Ortmeyer said of the 19-year-old. Hes got a big, heavy shot and we wanted him to use it and get that confidence that comes with scoring goals while building off those habits he was able to establish last year in Hartford, like backchecking responsibly, finishing checks, stick position and details like those. Were excited.
It was Ortmeyer who raised the name, unsolicited, when asked if thered been a prospect hed not yet been asked about. Kravtsov? he said. Im pretty excited about him.
That of course would be winger Vitali Kravtsov, 21, the ninth-overall selection from 2018, who has been here, gone home, returned here, went back home again and is now on assignment to KHL Traktor Chelyabinsk with perhaps one last chance of playing for the Rangers.
I think hes got a lot of talent, Ortmeyer said. We want to see him do well. Hes still one of our guys and we want to be a resource for him and be there for whatever he needs. We hope he has a great season, and what happens after that is obviously above my pay grade.
Originally posted here:
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